What exactly does it mean to be productive?
The dictionary defines “productivity” as “the rate at which goods and services having exchange value are brought forth or produced”.
In human speak, that means ‘doing useful things quickly’.
In an age where hours, days, and even years are zooming by, it’s more important than ever to be productive.
If we get our daily to dos out of the way efficiently, we free up valuable time to focus on the things that make life exciting.
And let’s be honest – most of us are pretty dependent on our mobile devices. So we thought we’d look into which mobile apps can help us make productivity a breeze.
Oh, and we’re not talking apps that bust the bank.
We’re talking about the good ol’ “I-paid-nothing-for-this-but-it’s-soooo-good” productivity-boosting apps.
This app featured in our blog post about rad to do list apps.
In fact, it was number one on the list.
And almost two years down the track, it’s made it into our list once more – again in top position.
Because this app is just that good. It is still the most useful, clean, and intuitive app on my phone.
It decreases unnecessary clutter, helps me prioritise tasks and things I really need to focus on, and actually makes me feel pumped when I cross things off.
Any.do also works beautifully with it’s sister app Cal to help me stay on top of projects in a timely way.
A bonus perk is that integrates amazingly with email, too – it even knows how to crack jokes in the most appropriate of times.
And no wonder this app is so intuitive – it was built by an ex-Israeli-military entrepreneur on an algorithm where the user’s intent is extracted from his/her tasks and enables him/her to actually execute those tasks across devices.
It’s the kind of smart technology that definitely gets us buzzing with excitement.
Speaking of clever apps, let’s have a chat about Mailbox.
We all know getting through emails takes up a lot of our work time.
In fact, this report from the McKinsey Global Institute states that the average person spends 13 hours (a total of 28% of our workweek) dedicated towards reading, deleting, sorting and sending emails.
That’s a heck of a lot of time. Time that could be devoted to successfully crossing things off the to do list we talked about earlier.
And that’s where Mailbox takes ‘email productivity’ to the next level.
It’s light, fast, and mobile-friendly.
It works like a messaging system where I can swipe emails to archive or trash, and scan entire conversations in chat-like view.
What I love about it the most, though, is that it helps me solve my age old problem of not knowing what to do with certain emails.
If you’re anything like me, there have been times (read: at least once a day) when you sit there staring at emails you just can’t deal with right there and then.
Well not with Mailbox!
Instead of leaving these types of emails to clutter my inbox, I put them off until tomorrow or next week (or even someday) so I can focus on what’s important now.
And when the time is right, Mailbox returns them to my inbox automagically.
Oh, and speaking of Mailbox’s automagical powers, it gets smarter as I use it. It automates common actions, by learning from my swipes and snoozes.
If I had to spit out one word off the top of my head to explain Evernote, it would be “Hub”.
This app is definitely the epicentre of all my stuff.
It’s where I keep my work, notes, thoughts, ideas, scribbles, pictures, receipts, tickets, plans, and pretty much anything else that can be digitised.
I list everything I need to do there, too – in a lot more detail than in my Any.do lists.
One of the highlights is how easily it lets me collect anything. I can clip web articles, record my voice, capture handwritten notes, snap pics of my receipts, and import info directly from my email.
And then I can search everything with the ‘search and discovery’ feature that can pretty much even read my handwritting to pull up the things that I’m after.
Boom! Helps me get things done quickly and efficiently.
It’s available on everything I use, every day, so I can take my work with me (or pop down personal project ideas when I’m at work – shhh, don’t tell my manager).
Just in case the brimful basin of Evernote features is not enough to do absolutely everything you need it to, there is a myriad of extensions you can employ.
Before I wrap up my Evernote ambassador-ness (yes, I did just invent a word) let me tell you about one of my fav Evernote hacks: Evernote templates.
In particular, I’d like to mention this awesome free template that lets business travelers sort out expense reports in a jiffy. It’s certainly saved me time and effort in the past!
I’m a writer.
That’s my day job.
But you know what? I love sketching things.
In fact, for a writer, I’m a hardcore visual thinker.
My thoughts have more impact if I see them in my handwriting and doodles on a page, as opposed to “Arial/Helvetica/Times New Roman” letters on a screen.
I sort my information with boxes. And circles. And dot points and arrows. And little icons that range from stick men to life-like, shaded mountains.
My visual note-taking is the most effective way for me to plug the information at hand into my internal frame of reference.
Perhaps this TED video by Rachel Smith, Digital Facilitation Services for The Grove Consultants Int., will better explain why visual thinking is so important.
It’s no wonder, then, that Inkflow plays a big part in my day.
It’s one of the best doodads in a visual thinker’s arsenal.
The reason I prefer it over alternatives is that: 1) it offers a free version with loads of functionality, and 2) it’s a crazy intuitive artistic program that takes advantage of things you can do on mobile devices that you can’t do on plain paper.
But where it truly beats out the competition is with it’s amazing Inkport tool.
For example, check out how easy it is to play around with your doodles thanks to the Inkport. It turns all your written notes and sketches into a vector, so you can edit them a billion ways.
No redrawing, no multiple pieces of paper, no wasting time.
Inkport is available through the paid version of Inkflow (called “Inkflow Plus”), but for $9.99 it’s a darn good investment.
You’ve got a huge project to do for work.
You’re plugging away at it for days.
Your best friend says she wants to catch up for lunch one day and you’re stoked because you really need to get out of the office.
So you organise when to meet. You rock up right on time and your friend sends you a message saying she’s 3 minutes away.
You know your friend is notorious for running (very) late and suddenly you’ve got a brainwave about your big project which you just need to jot down.
You don’t want to seem like work is more important than your lunch date, but this is a chance to be productive.
So you pull out your phone and send your friend an SMS via WhereAreYou App. She accepts, the app replies, and you know exactly how far off she is (not 3min like she’s said, she’s actually more like 15min away).
So you’ve got plenty of time.
You jot down your ideas, they help you kick butt at your project, you get promoted, and you go on to become CEO of the company in a few years.
Ok, so the CEO thing is a bit farfetched (although I’m all for dreaming big!). But the rest is completely realistic.
WhereAreYou App won’t commonly be found on a “productivity boosting apps” list.
But if you’re time-poor and your friends/colleagues/clients are known for running late – this little app might come in very handy.